The terminology of ethical, sustainable & cruelty-free shopping
Not entirely sure of the difference between cruelty-free and vegan? Finding it hard to explain to someone what you mean by 'shopping ethically and sustainably'? Can't tell your BCI from your GOTS? Check out our handy glossary for simple definitions of some of the most commonly-encountered terms in the world of 'eco-fashion'.
And, if you think we've missed something (or have got something totally arse-about), please let us know.
B Corp is to business what Fairtrade certification is to coffee. B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Today there is a growing community of more than 1,600 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and more than 120 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
Information on B Corps and B Corp certification can be found here.
BCI (Better Cotton Initiative)
BCI (the Better Cotton Initiative) is a not-for-profit organisation stewarding the global standards for Better Cotton, and bringing together cotton’s complex supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers.
BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future, by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.
Detailed information about BCI and the work it does is available from its website.
[A substance or object] capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms, to be reabsorbed into the ecosystem
The total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted due to human activity.
Closed loop design
The term Closed Loop Design refers to a product being designed to have another function after its primary use, thus eliminating all waste. The used product's output becomes the input of a new product or function.
Closed loop production
Closed Loop Production is a form of production designed to eliminate all waste. Loops may be closed, for instance, by recovery, re-use or recycling.
Conscious consumption is a social movement based around increased awareness of the impact of purchasing decisions on the environment and the consumer's health and life in general. It is also concerned with the effects of media and advertising on consumers.
When shopping, a conscious consumer asks questions such as: 'Is this item made in line with my values? Am I supporting the local economy? Are the people who produce this item treated and compensated fairly? Is this item built to last?'
As a result of these questions, conscious consumers make an effort to support organic agriculture, fair trade and sweatshop-free products and local and independent businesses.
Cost per wear is a formula that takes the total cost of an item and divides it by the estimated number of wears.
Cruelty-free means that a company did not test its products (or any ingredients of those products) on animals during any phase of development.
Cruelty-free, however, does not mean the same thing as vegan. While the term cruelty-free prohibits the use of animal testing, it still allows a company to use animal ingredients, which may include things like carmine, beeswax, lanolin and honey.
Cruelty-free products on this site are designated by a heart icon.
Eco-chic refers to products that are environmentally conscious as well as being stylish or cool.
Eco-friendly literally means earth friendly, or not harmful to the environment. The term most commonly refers to products that contribute to green living or practices that help conserve resources like water and energy. Eco-friendly products also prevent contributions to air, water and land pollution.
In its most basic sense, being ethical means avoiding activities or organisations that do harm to people or the environment.
Ethical fashion / Ethically made
For the Ethical Fashion Forum, ethical fashion and ethically made represent an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing and accessories that maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.
For the EFF, the meaning of ethical and ethically made goes beyond doing no harm, representing an approach that strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, and minimising and counteracting environmental concerns.
Ethical fashion brands are often known for the following features: employing artisans with traditional skill sets, providing cruelty-free products, using certified and/or safe factories, avoiding all sweatshop labour, etc. An ethical fashion label doesn't exploit people for its own financial success. Transparency is key to being considered an ethical fashion brand.
Products on Ecoture that are deemed to have been ethically made are designated with a globe icon.
Fairtrade is a global movement for change that advocates for better working conditions and improved terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries.
The Fairtrade Mark is the globally-recognised label that adorns Fairtrade Certified products. For a product to display the Fairtrade Mark it must meet the international Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards set by the certification body Fairtrade International.
Each time you choose a product carrying the Fairtrade Mark you are making the choice to give a fair go to farmers, workers and their communities in some of the world’s poorest countries.
You can read more about Fairtrade and Fairtrade certification here.
Fashion Revolution was born following the deadly collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in April 2013. It is a global not-for-profit movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner and more transparent fashion industry, with teams in more than 90 countries around the world.
The movement celebrates fashion as a positive influence whilst also scrutinising industry practices and raising awareness of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues. It aims to show that change is possible and encourage those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion.
Fashion Revolution Week
Fashion Revolution Week is Fashion Revolution's annual #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign, run every April to commemorate the Rana Plaza factory disaster that killed 1,138 people and injured many more.
During the week, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #IMadeYourClothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chains.
The term fast fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged, and today it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week.
Fast fashion is frequently criticised on the grounds that it encourages a ‘throw-away’ mentality among consumers.
Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to pollution, shoddy workmanship and emphasizing very brief trends over classic style.
Greenwashing is the practice of using PR and/or marketing deceptively to promote the perception that an organisation’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly. Greenwashing efforts can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals, to multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly.
While greenwashing is not new, its use has increased over recent years to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly goods and services.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a comprehensive ecological and social standard for the entire textile supply chain based on the use of certified organic fibres. Strict criteria apply at all stages from cotton through to the final product, and the GOTS label can only be used on final products that have been certified through every stage.
A textile product carrying the GOTS label grade ‘organic’ must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres, whereas a product with the label grade ‘made with organic’ must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres. Correct GOTS labelling must show the GOTS certification ID so that consumers can check them against the GOTS public database.
You can read more about GOTS here.
It might seem obvious, but products marked as Handmade have been made by hand, rather than through an automated machine-based process.
Handmade products on Ecoture are marked with scissors.
Products designated as Limited Run are available only in strictly limited quantities, many having been manufactured specifically to our order.
Once a Limited Run item has sold out, it may not be possible for us to re-order exactly the same product from our supplier.
Look for the time-tag icon on a product page to see if something is limited run.
Modal is regenerated cellulose product that is manufactured in a closed-loop system, in which the viscose processing has been optimised to achieve a high recovery rate of its by-products, making it more sustainable than rayon.
Modal is made from beech wood pulp and is biodegradable. It has similar characteristics to cotton.
While there is no official, regulated definition for the term ‘natural’, the Natural Ingredient Resource Centre provides some guidance on what constitutes natural in respect of the natural products industry and what criteria must be met for product labelling.
The Centre explains that natural ingredients include plant, animal, mineral or microbial ingredients, present in or produced by nature, produced using minimal physical processing and directly extracted using simple methods, simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally-occurring biological processes. Natural ingredients do not contain synthetic ingredients, do not contain artificial ingredients, including colours or flavours, and do not contain chemical preservatives.
Natural products on Ecoture will have a leaf icon.
Organic ingredients and materials are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, genetically-modified organisms, or ionising radiation.
There are many different standards for certifying products as ‘organic’. These differ across countries and industries.
As a guide, the US Department of Agriculture identifies three categories of labelling of organic products: (a) 100% organic - made with 100% organic ingredients; (b) Organic - made with at least 95% organic ingredients; and (c) Made with organic ingredients - made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, with strict restrictions on the remaining 30%, including no GMOs.
ECOCERT, the first certification body to develop standards for ‘natural and organic cosmetics’, has two certifications:
For its natural and organic cosmetic label, a minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of ingredients by weight must come from organic farming.
For its natural cosmetic label, a minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 5% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming.
You can find out more about ECOCERT here.
Ecoture products that have a high percentage of organic ingredients have been designated with a rosette.
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a lower impact on the environment than those methods and materials used to farm conventional cotton.
Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers and build biologically diverse agriculture.
Third-party certification organisations verify that organic cotton producers use only allowed methods and materials.
Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the use of generally engineered seed is prohibited.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA) is the largest animals rights organisation in the world, with more than 3 million members and supporters, including a long list of celebrities.
PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest number of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry.
PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.
A brand that voluntarily commits to using no animal materials in any of its products may display the PETA-Approved Vegan log on the front of its website and/or storefronts. Brands that are not entirely vegan but retail vegan products may use the logo only in regards to particular approved products.
Many of our brands are PETA-Approved Vegan brands.
Post-consumer waste is waste collected after a consumer has disposed of it.
Pre-consumer waste refers to manufacturing waste.
Rana Plaza (Rana Plaza disaster)
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh is the worst ever industrial accident to hit the garment industry, and the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building came crashing down, killing 1,134 people and leaving thousands more injured. Most of the victims were young women, working in factories manufacturing clothing for big global brands.
People all across the world looked on in shock as media reports poured in revealing the true extent of the human toll, and the collapse of Rana Plaza brought worldwide attention to death trap workplaces within the garment industry.
Recycling is the process of taking consumer materials - mostly plastic, paper, metal and glass - and breaking them down so that their base materials can be remade into new consumer products.
Where one of our products has a significant recycled component (or, better yet, components) to it, we've marked it with an arrow icon (which is also used for up-cycling).
The Slow Fashion movement prioritises quality design, creating and buying apparel for longevity. It slows down the production process, encourages fair trade and fair wages, and is environmentally conscious in design and implementation. It is the antithesis of fast fashion.
Slow fashion encourages consumers to ask questions and be proactive in learning where the clothes they want to purchase came from, and in so doing, make more conscious choices.
Slow fashion also prioritises quality, reminding us to choose clothing that lasts over clothing that can be worn out after a number of washes.
Social responsibility (socially responsible)
Social responsibility suggests that every person should live their life with an awareness towards the interests and wellbeing of society as a whole. We need to take on a social responsibility for our own choices, how we spend our money and how we take care of what we already own.
Social responsibility encourages us as consumers to be mindful of what we possess and its effect on other people and the environment.
The Sustainable Products Corporation states that sustainable products are those products providing environmental, social or economic benefits while protecting public health, welfare and environment over their full commercial cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposition.
Maybe not the clearest definition in the world (?) but where we've assessed a product as having a high level of sustainability, we've recognised that with a hands icon.
The term sustainable fashion refers to clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects.
In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of a product’s lifecycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.
From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimise any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s lifecycle by (i) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources, (ii) selecting renewable energy sources at every stage, and (iii) maximising repair, remake, reuse and recycling of the product and its components.
From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct.
In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encouraging more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion.
Up-cycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. The intention of upcycling is to give an item a better purpose. In other words, what’s old is new again, but with a twist. Upcycling makes a positive impact on the environment by removing items from the global garbage stream.
Our up-cycling/recycling arrows will point you in the direction of products with one or both of these features.
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purposes.
Products labelled Vegan contain no animal products or by-products, and can be identified by the rabbit icon (of course).
Vegan Leather is an animal-friendly alternative to real leather, and the term can refer to several different materials. Vegan leathers often include a combination of the following:
* Vegetan - a microfibre that is specifically designed and used as an animal-friendly leather substitute;
* Lorica - a material made of several different microfibres;
* Birko-Flor - made of acrylic and polyamide felt fibres (this is what Birkenstock uses);
* Birikibuc - made of the same stuff as Birko-Flor, but looks and feels like nubuck;
* Polyurethane (PU) - this type of vegan leather is softer and more pliable, making it comfortable to wear; and
* Kydex - an acrylic PVC alloy.
For people who love the look and functionality of leather but are committed to a lifestyle prohibiting the use of animal products, vegan leather is a good choice. Advancements in textile technology have resulted in materials virtually indistinguishable from genuine leather.
Vegetarians do not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.
Products labelled Vegetarian do not contain any by-products of animal slaughter, but may contain ingredients such as beeswax and/or honey, which excludes them from being classified as Vegan.
You can spot a Vegetarian product on our site because it will feature a carrot icon.